Long-term ski area growth questions linger
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — After two extensions, a public comment period on the proposal to add several hundred acres of new lift-served terrain at Breckenridge is coming to an end Aug 26, and the Peak 6 expansion is no less controversial now than when it was first proposed publicly in 2008.
The public debate about the expansion shows how ski communities in general are divided on ski area growth. There is strong support for the expansion plan from part of the town’s business community, including the Breckenridge Restaurant Association and some other ski-related businesses. Other residents feel strongly that the resort is big enough and that additional growth will undermine quality of life in the community.
Resort leaders say the plan to add new terrain served by a six-seat chair will help disperse skiers and riders across Colorado’s busiest ski area, easing congestion on existing lifts and trails. Critics of the plan say it will attract more visitors, ultimately resulting in even more crowding, both on the mountain and in the town.
There’s still time to get informed about the proposal by visiting the official Peak 6 website, which offers great access to information about the project and links for submitting comments. You can also read background stories on Peak 6 and listen to several town council discussions about the project by visiting the Summit Voice Peak 6 page.
From here, the Forest Service will review the public comments on the draft environmental impact statement, using the public input to help shape the final version of the document, which will include responses to all the public comments.
White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams will make the final call, deciding whether to choose one of the existing alternatives described in the draft plan, or to shape a new version by combining elements of the various alternatives in the draft.
Regardless of the outcome of the current process, the resort, town and Forest Service have a lot of work to do to address long-term management of expected growth in skier visits to Breckenridge. If Peak 6 truly is the last expansion at the ski area, what will happen in five years when skier days once again bump up against the so-called comfortable carrying capacity? How will the town respond when existing parking lots are developed and there is simply no more room to park additional cars?
It would make sense for all the stakeholders to start working together now to develop a long-term plan to address those issues, because as long as the population of Colorado grows, and as long as fresh powder and clean mountain air holds it allure, they won’t go away.